Self-advocacy is an important skill that disabled students need to learn in order to protect their rights and ensure equal opportunities in their school, work, and community. This skill requires individuals to understand their rights and their needs and be able to communicate this information to others.
The following considerations are important to individuals learning to self-advocate:
1. awareness of their disabilities and its implications
2. knowledge of personal strengths, needs and responsibilities
3. ability to be assertive and tenuous
4. ability to communicate effectively
5. knowledge of laws and rights as a citizen
6. knowledge of available resources
7. use of available remedies when rights are denied
8. ability to educate others about issues
9. develop goals and objectives for short and long-term action plans
10. know their rights and how to express them
11. be clear with requests and prepared with explanations
12. learn to identify supporters
Developing Self-Advocacy Skills
It is essential for disabled students to develop the skills necessary to advocate for themselves. Self-advocacy skills are important and useful skills necessary for success throughout life. They are skills that will allow individuals with disabilities to deal with the obstacles they surely will encounter. It is important, therefore, for them to learn to listen carefully, ask meaningful questions, discuss issues, gather and organize information, document, negotiate and become problem solvers.
Individuals with disabilities should be encouraged to develop strategies that will assist them in their everyday lives as well as focus on long-term goals. In addition, they should develop strategies that will assist them in their journey.
The first step to self-advocacy is developing a sense of self. Self-advocacy requires an understanding of an individual’s strengths, limitations and needs. Individuals must learn to identify personal goals, know their legal rights and responsibilities, and communicating these to others. They must also use the modifications and specialized materials and equipment necessary without fear or reluctance.
This curriculum will include activities that will encourage students to regularly reflect on the positive and negative situations in their life. They will be asked to take an honest look at their skills, their talents, what strategies work for them as well as what is not working for them. These exercises will help them put things into perspective and help them to develop an action plan to improve their skills.
Students must understand their strengths and limitations
and what accommodations are needed to overcome their limitations. To determine what individuals need to improve their skills or compensate for their weaknesses they should be taught to investigate the accommodations, modifications, assistance or instruction they require accomplishing a task.
Learning to Communicate
It is important for students to practice the skill of communication. The annual Planning and Placement (PPT) meeting, required by school systems for students under 21, can be an excellent testing ground for students to learn these skills. Students should prepare before these meeting by organizing their thoughts, inventorying their needs, strengths, interests, talents and planning and practicing how they will present this information to the team.
Role playing provides a great opportunity to practice communication skills. Role-playing allows students the opportunity to think and react to a variety of situations, help them raise their level of confidence and be able to communicate effectively with other people in a relatively comfortable and non-threatening atmosphere.
For instance, role playing a job interview will allow students the opportunity to practice answers to questions that they may encounter in a future job interview. It will also allow them to practice answers to questions that they might not anticipate, or questions that they legally do not have to answer. Practicing such questions beforehand will allow them to keep their composure, and reply appropriately.
Educating the Community
Students with disabilities often encounter situations where they are required to educate others about their disability or issues of importance to individuals with disabilities. Peers, teachers, administrators, employers and community members may be unfamiliar with the needs of disabled individuals. The consequence of this ignorance is that students face uncomfortable, awkward, or discriminatory situations. Students, therefore, need to learn how to handle each of these situations to maintain their dignity and protect their rights.
Plans for the Future
Most high school students are focused on the present. However, in order to become independent, self-sufficient members of the community, individuals with disabilities need to develop a plan of action for the future. This transition plan needs to include a realistic evaluation of what services and supports they require to achieve their objectives. This plan will allow students to move smoothly from high school to work or higher education.
Lesson Plan: “Self-Advocacy in a Planning and Placement Meeting”
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to make available to all eligible children with disabilities a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate to their individual needs.
IDEA requires public school systems to develop appropriate Individualized Education Programs (IEP) for each child. The IEP is designed to reflect the individual educational needs of each student. The team consists of parents, teachers, counselors, mentors, tutors, administrators, and the student.
To improve the transition from parent advocacy to self-advocacy by providing
students with practice assuming responsibility for planning and decision making
1. PPT handbook
2. visits to colleges
3. job shadowing experiences in the community
4. Copies of ADA, P.L. 94-142, Rehabilitation Act 504
The teacher completes each of the following steps with students:
1. Inform the student about the nature and purpose of the strategy
2. Describe and provide a rationale for each step of the strategy
4. Provide information on how a PPT meeting is conducted
5. Provide examples of how the steps of the strategy can be used before or during the conference
6. Model the steps of the strategy for the student
7. Students should complete an inventory sheet that includes their strengths, weaknesses, goals, and modifications
1. Students verbally rehearse the strategy steps
2. Students role-play a simulated IEP conference to apply the strategies
3. Review and discuss tape recording of simulated IEP conference
Students will gain experience in self-advocacy through a variety of experiences.
A. meet with guidance counselor or resource teacher for assistance
B. obtain information concerning legislation that protect individuals with disabilities (IDEA, Rehabilitation Act 504 and ADA)
C. review goals and objectives suggested by teachers prior to meeting
D. submit additional goals and objectives as necessary
E. actively participate in PPT by listening intently, asking questions, supplying suggestions
Students will develop an “Inventory of Needs”
1. develop a list of their strengths and weaknesses and likes and dislikes
2. discuss their learning styles and present strategies
3. reflect on how they solve problems and approach difficult situations
Each student will complete an inventory sheet of his/her learning strengths, areas that need to be improved, careers interests, and learning styles.
Students will keep journals that consist of personal observations on their classroom and homework activities and experiences. The student will note what strategies that have been successful and what needs to improve.
The exercises will also help develop the student’s self-awareness and help them to gain explicit knowledge of their cognitive resources.
Student will develop an “Action Plan”
Students will meet periodically in conferences with teachers to discuss:
1. possible adjustments or modifications to classroom procedures
2. how they are doing in class and what needs to improve
3. modifications and adjustments that are needed in their study and work habits
Students will write personal goals and objectives including the steps that are needed to accomplish these tasks and a timeline for completion
Looking To The Future
1. visit colleges, places of employment, and other training facilities
2. meet with support personnel and college students receiving support services.
3. participate in a career awareness seminar with other students
4. participate in career exploration tasks such as taking vocational interest inventories and job shadowing.
5. plan for the future by looking at planned courses, extracurricular activities, and summer employment that relate to career information
Open-ended interviews with students, teachers, parents
Notes to Teacher
Stress the following strategies:
The student should be encouraged to speak up and actively participate; listen carefully; be aware and show interest in the discussion; and demonstrate acceptance or non-acceptance with simple agreement or disagreement statements.
Developing Communication Skills
The student should be encouraged to questions and request clarification or additional information when talking to teachers or attending meetings. Students should be encouraged to use a pleasant tone of voice, show interest in what others are saying and to allow the person to respond before asking another question. Students need to respond to questions using full sentences. They should take notes, if necessary.
Summarize your IEP goals
They should check their understanding of what is being discussed in meetings about them by asking questions or re-stating important issues in their own words. This will allow students and other conference participants to express agreement or disagreement with issues or with goals that are being set for the student.
1. What do you think are your strongest and weakest learning areas?
2. What skills do want learn or improve over the next year that will help you do better in school?
3. What activities or materials in the past that have helped you learn your school subjects?
4. What school activities (sports, clubs, and jobs) do you want to become involved?
5. What careers or jobs would you like to pursue after graduation from high school?
6. What types of study or learning activities work best for you?
8. What size study group works best for you?
9. What type of assignments, tests or evaluations do you like?
10. Is there anything that has been overlooked or something you’d like to say about school, or any other area you are concerned about?